United we fall? All-Ireland Brexit forum dismissed before it’s even proposed

If we can’t even talk about it, where does that leave us...?

Brexit, All Ireland forum, Enda Kenny, North-South Ministerial Council, Dublin Castle, Arlene Foster

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at the press conference of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in Dublin Castle | Image: RollingNews.ie

“Could a British exit from the EU force a border poll for a united Ireland?” – This was one of the many questions circulating following the UK referendum on June 23rd.

Forgetting about such a bold move, it seems there won’t even be forum to discuss the vote itself.

The North-South Ministerial Council has met at Dublin Castle for some post-Brexit brain storming.

Among those attending were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who proposed the all-Ireland forum to discuss the fallout from the Brexit vote.

The Department of the Taoiseach had floated the idea over the weekend, with plans for it to be formally tabled at the meeting.

Even this morning, plans released by the Government included this line: “The Taoiseach will raise the possibility of developing an all island forum with the support of political parties, North and South, to discuss the joint challenges arising from the UK decision.”

But it didn’t even make it to the table, with the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster rubbishing such an idea.

“I think what the media are looking at today is about the mechanisms of how we do that,” she told reporters at Dublin Castle.

“For my part I believe that there are more than enough mechanisms by which we can discuss these issues on a north-south basis.”

(Left to right) Minister Charlie Flanagan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin Guinness at Dublin Castle | Image: RollingNews.ie

“And frankly I don’t believe that there’s any mechanisms needed because we can lift the phone to each other on a daily basis if that were so needed to have these discussions,” she added.

While Mr Kenny said: “It hasn’t been proposed, and therefore hasn’t been rejected.”

It seems it’s all over before it’s begun.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams welcomed the idea in a statement, saying: "Subject to seeing the details of the Taoiseach's proposals, I welcome the commitment to establish such a forum. Any such forum must have island-wide participation and involve the Assembly parties, the Oireachtas, the European Parliament and civic society."

However, in a statement following the North-South Ministerial Council all sides did agree that a full audit be undertaken in all sectors to identify possible impacts, risks, opportunities and contingencies following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The council also had “a detailed discussion” on the potential impact of the UK referendum result, and identified priority areas including the economy and trade, and the Common Travel Area.

But it seems all this will have to wait until November, as ministers agreed this is when the next meeting would be held in Armagh.